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Tag: Ross Hunter


As part of week of rallies, protesters call for fewer cuts and new revenue

In response to House budget proposals released yesterday, protesters in Olympia kicked off a week of rallies against cuts to state services.

The protest of the day Tuesday, sponsored by the Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget, featured a staged marriage between Washington politicians and corporations and a rallying cry that has become a familiar fixture of groups protesting in Olympia this year: fund state services and end tax breaks for big business.

Nicole Miller, a coalition member and a leader of the rally, said the group wanted state lawmakers to make more of an effort to raise revenue this year.

Miller acknowledged that ending tax exemptions could be difficult under Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds majority of the Legislature or a vote of the people to raise taxes, but she said she would rather see lawmakers bring bills to close tax loopholes up for a vote and fail than avoid the issue altogether.

“We want to see lawmakers work on closing them rather than just throwing up their hands,” she said.

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Washington budget shortfall grows nearly $800 million with revenue forecast

Washington’s budget shortfall grew $778 million with the state revenue forecast released today, to about $5.3 billion that lawmakers need to bridge over the next 27 months.

“The problem has become more daunting,” House budget chairman Ross Hunter told reporters.

If you don’t consider a few big-ticket items that have already been cut in previous years and that everyone knows will not be renewed, the real amount that has to be cut or raised is more like $3.5 billion, Hunter said.

Projected revenues for the current two-year period have fallen 18 percent over the past three years, to about $28

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More on heron vs. goldfinch

The blue heron lobby thought this was the year they could ram their bill through, but Big Goldfinch is fighting back.

OK, the clash isn’t quite that dramatic. But House Democrats explain on their blog the debate over which critter should be the state bird:

Hunter has heard from lifelong birdwatchers who argue that the Goldfinch is not only an asset to the entire state, it also provides a special “ornithological lesson about supply and demand” because the Goldfinch waits to nest until later in the season than most birds when the seeds they eat are more plentiful.

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Take that, willow goldfinch

The little songbird has been Washington’s official state bird since 1951, but a bill by Rep. Ross Hunter that has bipartisan support would strip that title from the willow goldfinch and give it to the great blue heron:

AN ACT Relating to naming the state bird; and amending RCW 1.20.040.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON: Sec. 1. RCW 1.20.040 and 1951 c 249 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:
The ((willow goldfinch)) great blue heron is hereby designated as the official bird of the state

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Bipartisanship? Not so much on this budget vote, maybe later

House Republicans voted in lockstep today against nearly $350 million in proposed budget cuts and transfers of money that would eliminate most of the remaining shortfall in the budget through June.

The 55-43 vote came after the similarly party-line defeat of a GOP alternative proposal and contrasted with the last time lawmakers took a whack at the shortfall, when Republicans and Democrats came to a bipartisan deal before convening for a one-day December special session.

This time around, Rep. Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup said: “It was a little more of the normal budget process, which in the past has been partisan.”

The real question is what this opening act portends for the main event, the two-year budget and its $4.6 billion shortfall. Will lawmakers return to the typical partisan divisions?

“We’ll figure out how to work together,” House budget chairman Ross Hunter predicted.

GOP floor leader Rep. Charles Ross of Naches wasn’t so optimistic.

“Today is the foundation day” that will set the tone for the session, he said, addressing the House’s presiding officer. “We’re here to be a part of the solution, Mr. Speaker. My fear is that we’re seeing those doors of opportunity for bipartisanship begin to close.”

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How House Democrats found money Gregoire couldn’t to save programs

Programs across state government would take smaller hits to compensate for the programs the House wants to save, and I’m still poring over exactly what the differences are.

But the biggest single source of extra money lawmakers found above Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s cuts appears to be the greater-than-expected revenue coming in from taxes on oil and other pollutants.

It’s a fund lawmakers have raided before, and House Democrats want to sweep $17 million from it, even though voters who imposed the taxes dedicated that money to cleaning up hazardous waste sites.

Rep. Ross Hunter, the House budget chairman, said it’s

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Unclear where money would come from to save Basic Health

House Democrats’ plan for cutting the current two-year budget would end state funding March 1 for the Basic Health Plan and the 66,000 people insured under it.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the federal government will expand coverage to cover those same people as the health care bill kicks in.

What happens between those two dates is unclear. Businesses, and maybe voters, would be asked to help.

House Democrats are still trying to figure it out. But they hope to keep providing state-subsidized health insurance to otherwise uninsured adults.

“Parts of private industry here are interested in participating in the

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House Democrats offer partial budget fix: ‘Transition’ Basic Health, raid accounts

House Democrats today proposed $217 million in budget cuts, including a scaling back of funding for the Basic Health Plan, to continue chipping away at the shortfall in the current two-year budget.

Rep. Ross Hunter‘s proposal also lays out $124 million in fund transfers, a list that mostly mirrors Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s plan but also raids the Local Toxics Account that local governments use to clean up polluted sites.

The House “early-action” bill gets a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. today in the Ways and Means Committee. If it passes, it would still leave about a $260 million problem for lawmakers to solve in the budget that runs through June — not to mention the $4.6 billion shortfall over the next two years.

Only about $18 million in immediate savings comes from ending Basic Health because those who get subsidized health insurance under the program will be moved to something called Basic Health Transition. It’s meant as a bridge to 2014, when broader Medicaid coverage kicks in as part of the federal health care overhaul.

Lawmakers hope to make up the funding cut to Basic Health by “harness(ing) private contributions and federal funds,” according to the text of the bill.

The plan doesn’t end the Disability Lifeline program that provides cash and medical aid for disabled and out-of-work people, as Gregoire proposed. Nor does it follow her proposals to reduce levy equalization to property-poor school districts, or end state health insurance for non-citizen and undocumented children.

“There are still devastating cuts in this proposal, but in many cases we managed to stretch the safety net without breaking it. Our children, elderly, and most vulnerable people remain a priority in this proposal,” Rep. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma said in a statement.

Here’s the full news release:

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